UNITED NATIONS – Iran's foreign minister said Monday that talks between top Iranian and European negotiators on his country's disputed nuclear program are "on track" and he believes a negotiated solution to the standoff is possible.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told The Associated Press that he expects European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to hold their third meeting "very soon," probably in Europe, though he didn't have an exact date or location.
The two officials had been expected to meet in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly ministerial meeting that began last week, but Mottaki said it wasn't possible because Larijani's deputy and members of his delegation weren't given U.S. visas.
"But the last two or three days, they have been in contact and they are coordinating," the Iranian minister said in an exclusive interview. "I think very soon they will have the next round of discussions."
Mottaki said "there was good connection between the two sides" after Iran responded on Aug. 22 to a package of incentives from six key nations for Iran if it suspends uranium enrichment. He added that after the first two rounds of talks, Larijani and Solana "mentioned jointly that it was positive, constructive and another step forward."
Six key nations trying to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions — Britain, France, Germany, the United States, France and Russia — are hoping Tehran will agree quickly to suspend uranium enrichment after it missed an Aug. 31 deadline and return to negotiations, but they are planning for sanctions if it does not.
"We do believe that case has gone once again on track. ... All the parties should support and make a commitment to support the negotiations and generally I believe there are possibilities to reach a comprehensive solution based on negotiations for both parties," Mottaki said.
Oil-rich Iran says it needs uranium enrichment to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity and insists its program is peaceful. Enrichment can also create material for atomic bombs, however, and the United States and other nations have accused Tehran of seeking to develop atomic weapons.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said for the first time at a press conference Thursday that Iran is prepared to negotiate the suspension of its enrichment activities "under fair and just conditions."
Asked what those conditions are, Mottaki laughed and said: "Justice is the main element in foreign policy, particularly in the new government's approach to either domestic or international issues and problems."
"That's why he does believe that any condition, any questions, any decision should be based on justice," Mottaki said.
How does he define justice?
"Yes, in its convenient time, we will explain. I'm sorry," the foreign minister said.